The Obama administration has asked a federal appeals court to block a tough new immigration law in Alabama from going into effect, saying it "invites discrimination against many foreign-born citizens and lawfully present aliens."
The emergency motion from the Justice Department was filed Friday, and asks the Atlanta-based 11th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals to quickly issue a temporary injunction, until the larger questions over the measure's constitutionality can be addressed.
A federal judge last month had already temporarily blocked enforcement of some parts of the law known as H.B. 56, while allowing other provisions to go into effect.
Other opponents of the measure -- including state church leaders and the American Civil Liberties Union -- had filed their own separate lawsuits
against the state.
At issue is whether H.B. 56 intrudes on the federal government's power over all immigration matters. State officials argue the law would help Alabama and not violate civil rights.
"H.B. 56 creates a panoply of new state offenses that criminalize, among other things, an alien's failure to comply with federal registration requirements that were enacted pursuant to Congress's exclusive power to regulate immigration," said the brief from the federal government.
State officials will now formally respond in coming days to the Obama administration's motion, and a three-judge panel of the 11th Circuit is then expected to issue a decision on the injunction request.
Oral arguments on the larger constitutional issues will likely be held in
coming months. The issues may ultimately have to be settled by the U.S. Supreme Court.
But Judge Sharon Lovelace Blackburn blocked the following provisions from being enforced:
The federal judge had upheld a section of the Alabama law requiring that police "attempt to determine the immigration status of a person who they suspect is an unauthorized alien of this country." That provision is similar to other laws aiming to crack down on illegal immigration passed by other state legislatures over the past year.
--One saying undocumented immigrants in the state are not allowed to "knowingly apply for work, solicit work in a public or private
place, or perform work as an employee or independent."
--One banning the "concealing, harboring, transporting, etc., of unlawfully present aliens."
--One prohibiting employers from "taking of a state tax deduction for wages paid to an unauthorized alien."
Another provision going into effect this week requires the state to check immigration status of students in public schools.
During court hearings earlier this summer in Birmingham, Alabama, an attorney with the Southern Poverty Law Center argued the public school portion of the law is unconstitutional.